Posted by: bahareiran | April 4, 2011

Global Voices: A look at The Kingdom of Women

TheStar.com, April 4 2011, by Emily Chan

While the world focuses mostly on women’s issues such as rape in the Congo, stoning in Iran and human trafficking in Thailand, a small pocket of society in southwest China known as the Mosuo remain relatively unnoticed.

Known as “The Kingdom of Women,” the people who live here make up one of the world’s few matriarchal societies.

“The Mosuo culture is different from almost every other current culture on the planet,” John Lombard, who lived with the Mosuo before founding the Mosuo Project, an NGO dedicated to preserving Mosuo culture, explained via e-mail from Dongguan, China.

“The oldest woman in each household will generally be the head of the house … When important community decisions need to be made, they’ll often be made by the matriarchs of each household getting together and reaching consensus on what is best for the community.”

In many ways, these differences lead to positive outcomes for the Mosuo.

“The result of this tends to be a much stronger emphasis on things like community, children, and education,” says Lombard.

Relationships are also treated differently in Mosuo society, where women practice “walking marriages,” often partnering with multiple men in their lifetimes.

“The Mosuo tend to be very pragmatic about relationships, and about love. They believe in love, certainly; but they acknowledge the simple fact that both emotions and people can change over time,” says Lombard.

There is no stigma attached to divorce or breakups. Because children are raised solely by the maternal family, they are not emotionally harmed when their parents’ relationship ends. The child’s biological father likely plays a very small role in the child’s life, instead, a child’s uncle acts as an older male influence.

This system almost entirely eliminates the idea of “single mothers” from Mosuo society.

While many are quick to look at Mosuo society and idealize the culture, Lombard warns against such stereotypes.

“The Mosuo do suffer from the same problems that all other cultures do,” he said. “They get angry, they feel jealous, they get violent, they lose control, etc. However, it does seem to be far less frequent than in other cultures.

“Patriarchal cultures tend to give a certain degree of allowance for male behaviour, which can discourage men from practicing as much self-control. Among the Mosuo … the female-dominant leadership won’t accept excuses, or consider such behaviour permissible.”

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